In the first part of Walking is life, I disassembled myself psychologically to a shrink named Jerry Sabath. He worked with his positive ways of explaining how to keep your health by walking, stimulating your neuro and vascular system providing life, not to mention sound thinking.
A few days ago, I got a strange phone call from the man who used to keep his eyes peeled for shiny pennies to keep his seeing sharp. This time the voice was mumbling almost completely. He said he had a stroke on the left side of his body and his leg was paralyzed. He had gotten up at night to go to the bathroom and he slipped, fell on his left arm. The next thing he knew, his door was being broken down and he lifted gently to Lenox Hill Hospital. He’d had a stroke. The entire left side of his body was paralyzed more or less. He ran through a number of names I should contact, which I, a bit in shock, too, wrote down. I asked my son Michael if he would give me lift to Lenox Hill hospital, and ace that he is he said, “Sure dad.” When we got to Lenox Hill, Michael not only parked the car, he found a metered space on the street and we were admitted to Jerry’s room. He looked like a train wreck. Jerry looked at Mike with admiration.
His left arm, the whole left side of his body was in a sling and couldn’t be moved. There were teeth missing from his mouth, and he mentioned that he was now 85 years old. Michael showed up in the room because he’d found a parking space. He looked buff, ready for the Navy or anything else. I could barely look Jerry in the face. I asked what happened. Jerry looked proudly at what a big guy Mike had become. The conversation went on with Jerry encouraging Mike to do what he wanted to with his life.
He said, the Navy would make a man of him. He, Jerry, fought in Korea at the height of the war. It did the same for him. The nurses slid in back and forth trying to move his left leg. No deal. A head nurse came in and said, “They were going to do therapy with the left side of his body, but she thought given his history it would be better to move him to Mount Sinai since Jerry had worked there on the medical staff, which seemed to make sense. We bid him goodbye at some point and left, telling him we’d be in touch. Only a day later, the 85 year old looked better. He was finishing lunch, pointing out all the non-nutritional foods for breakfast, and making jokes about their non-nutrition. There was a head nurse he introduced me to also, boasting about my writing, which embarrassed me yet made me feel good. We talked a little bit about politics. Michael had to get back to make his training season. Jerry told me to look up Netanyahu’s name. He had a big brother named Benjamin who fought with the IDF and was killed. He was a handsome fellow, too much so for the Netanyahu family.
That morning, my first call was Jerry trying to speak in his garbled voice. I called Mount Sinai Hill hospital across town from us. I got the phone number of the hospital and Jerry’s room number. I begged Mike to come with me even though he had an appointment with his trainer. He finally relented, saying “Don’t be paranoid when I drive the car, and I’ll do it.” Getting near The Fifth Avenue hospital was no mean feat. Yet we parked the car in a garage and wound our way around to Jerry’s room.
We found a nurse sort of badgering him about any accidents he’d had that involved his legs. He said yes, a huge one, playing football years ago. But that’s not bothering me at all. He introduced me at greater length to her prettiness. “My friend’s a poet, author of political articles, playwright . . .” It’s like he was setting me up for a date. Meanwhile, both Michael and I, though we were happy to see Jerry in better spirits and the left side of his face more elastic, not frozen, took our leave respectfully. His parting words were, “Let them fight, till there’s nobody left. And he repeated the Netanyahu experience, as if to have the war’s awful truth sink in. After all, if walking was life, war was certainly death, whether it was fought in the Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, or on the moon.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.